|Grand Penthouse Suites measure nearly 1,000 square feet in size, and have 100-square-foot decks.|
We were thrilled to get a sneak peek of the MS EUROPA 2 on a “shakedown” cruise out of Southampton, England, and see firsthand this all-suite (251 total) ship that boasts the “greatest space per passenger on any cruise ship in the world.” Upon entering you feel like you’ve walked into a high-end resort—not on to a ship—with spacious corridors, high ceilings and contemporary art from masters like Gerhard Richter and Damien Hirst. As you move into the public spaces, with large picture windows and great sea views, the experience is all luxury.
Life on Board: With a maximum of 516 passengers, MS EUROPA 2 is intimate yet has all this: Eight restaurants, six bars, a large theater with an LED Screen, a 55-foot pool with a fully retractable roof, a 3-D movie theater, two libraries and a cooking school. There is live music throughout all restaurants and bars including the pool deck, which also has a pop-up movie screen and speakers for “dive-in” movies or a DJ party scene, depending on the crowd. In the evening, we loved the Cirque du Soleil-inspired show—acrobatics, jugglers and singers with splashy aquatic effects. Four shows are planned, themed around Air, Water, Earth and Fire, with shows performed every few days—so on a seven-day cruise, guests see two shows; on a two-week voyage, guests see all four.
More fun stuff: There is live music in the Jazz Club which is open late so guests can do both the show and jazz (this is what we did). Nice Touch: Of the two libraries, one is “quiet” for reading with a large selection of novels in English; the other has games and card tables for relaxed play and several computers for online access. Lectures (in English) with known artists and authors are planned, but we’re most excited about the cooking school, with eight stations outfitted with Miele appliances, where the ship’s chefs will offer daily lessons on different cuisines for €80 ($104) per person including lunch and wine.
|The Pool Deck complements the ship’s interior offerings, which include multiple restaurants and bars, plus two libraries and a spa.|
EUROPA 2’s spa is nearly 11,000 square feet in size, with four types of saunas, a whirlpool, a Kneipp pool (German-style Jacuzzi) and an ice wall. All of this looks out onto the sea, by the way. Eight treatment rooms provide services ranging from LomiLomi to Abhyanga, and there is a full beauty salon, too. The high-tech exercise area is equipped by Technogym and has some innovative contraptions with pulleys, weights and levers that the “sport host” assured us will give amazing results. Plus, there are group classes in spin, Pilates and Kinesis. Unique Amenities: Two golf simulators with a PGA professional to instruct are present aboard every cruise. Note: There is no casino on the ship.
Dining: This is what puts the “plus” in the five-star—from sushi, caviar and beef tartare prepared tableside to magnificent filets and decadent chocolate desserts—all that a seasoned cruiser would expect, but in the finest possible forms. Themed restaurants include French, Italian, Asian, plus a separate sushi restaurant, and a Yacht Club with simple grilled fishes and meats. Interestingly, they’ve cast aside the cruise tradition of the “Captain’s Table.” Instead, there are intimate settings for two and four as well as some large tables for groups. Insider Secret: Private dining is available exclusively in the Speisezimmer restaurant at a cost of $1,800 for an evening. The price includes an aperitif, an amuse-bouche with caviar and a lobster dinner.
Drinks, alcoholic or not, are charged à la carte in the restaurants and bars, but at very low prices—i.e. a cocktail is $5.15 or $6.43, bottles of vintage wines sell for $38.50 or $51.40, so you get what you pay for instead of drinking to add value. Beverages (including alcohol) consumed from mini-bar cabins are complimentary and replenished daily. Nice Touch: The cigar bar offers more than 30 types of gin. Hot Tip: Sansibar, part of the chic German lifestyle brand from the hip seaside town Sylt, a.k.a. the Ibiza of Germany, serves food all day in an inside/outside lounge setting, perfect for mornings when you get a late start.
Accommodations: All suites have balconies of at least 75 square feet. There are seven different suite categories, with the smallest still a very comfortable 300 square feet, outfitted with crisp linens and plush towels. All suites have flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi (extra charge), a tablet PC and the all-important Nespresso machine. Signature suites have butler service and are the stuff of dreams—we loved the Grand Suites (we saw room 1008—but there are 24 like this), which at 560 square feet, have a large seating area with an L-shaped sofa, a sleeping area, bathrooms with separate tub and shower, built-in wardrobes and a large balcony with chaise lounges. For top clients, the ship has two each of the Grand Penthouse Suites (nearly 1,000 square feet, plus a 100-square-foot deck) and the Owner’s Suites (nearly 1,100 square feet, plus a 160-square-foot deck). These are like fabulous floating apartments with separate dining and entertaining spaces, and we loved the private Jacuzzi tubs and large white daybeds overlooking the sea.
Families have been well considered on EUROPA 2. There are several European sailings during UK and U.S. school breaks with cool “kids only” excursions, plus active excursions for the whole family where kids travel free with a paying adult. The “Knopf Club” is tricked out with everything from a climbing wall and mini makeup studio to a fully supplied art station and specific baby area, equipped with cots, changing tables and a colorful lounge filled with Steiff cuddly toys, staffed by certified nannies. For teens there is a disco, foosball table, and computer games. We loved the ship’s seven “family apartments,” two rooms (each with full bathrooms) connected by a door and a shared 150-square-foot balcony. Julian Pfitzner, director of product management for EUROPA 2, noted that while they are targeting families, they never expect more than 40 children per sailing, so they can cater personally to each one.
Sailing: For summer, EUROPA 2 is offering various seven-night itineraries around the Western and Eastern Mediterranean, and for winter the ship heads to the Middle East and Southeast Asia for longer journeys. In addition to the Family-themed cruises, EUROPA 2 caters to golfers with fully organized golf sailings overseen by a PGA pro, including greens fees and transportation, with access to exclusive courses in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.